If you’ve ever found yourself trying to make a creative cake for a celebration — or have stumbled down the internet rabbit hole of cakes that look like everyday items — then you’ve definitely familiar with the YouTube channel known as Koalipops. Koalipops is run by JK Denim, an entertainer turned baker, where he decorates a number of cakes to inspire his audience to go a few steps beyond what people expect from a cake. We talked with JK about how he got his start on YouTube and the ingredients to his channel’s success.
Around 2008, way back when YouTube was in its infancy, JK was encouraged to make a YouTube channel by his boss at Jamba Juice. He recalls, “My boss thought I was really funny… And so, she was like, you should start a YouTube channel.” Though he was hesitant at first, he decided to start uploading funny videos of him doing a variety of things.
In 2011 JK was accepted to the YouTube Creator Institute, a program initiated by Youtube in conjunction with the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and Columbia University in Chicago to present classes and events to develop up and coming creators.
It was there that he began creating baking content. “I made a video of me baking cookies and then that led into baking cupcakes and then that eventually led into decorating full-blown cakes. So, that’s kind of how it started probably.”
From there JK grew to create more baking content on his channel. As his channel was growing, he enrolled himself in the distinguished culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu.
“I enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu to just try to make everything seem professional, learn how to bake cakes and cookies and breads and stuff. And I started getting work to decorate cakes from online magazines and from My Recipes, this one website that contacted me.”
Even while enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, his channel was outpacing his schooling. JK eventually decided to drop out of the culinary school and instead turned to YouTube to teach him different decorating techniques.
“…they were teaching me way too slow because (my sponsored videos) wanted me to decorate stuff and Le Cordon Bleu was still teaching me how to bake things. So I dropped out of Le Cordon Bleu and I just ended up watching a whole bunch of YouTubers and learned how to decorate cakes. I had to teach myself.”
Today JK creates baked goods for the internet fulltime. From cakes that look like real everyday items to double-sided cute and scary cakes, JK has found his sweet spot.
JK uses his cakes more as a vehicle for conversation and entertainment rather than traditional instruction.
He describes how, “whenever I created a cake that was a straight-on DIY I didn’t want to talk about, the video sucked and I didn’t know how to make it interesting (laughs). And so, I would always think about the movies that I would watch [and ask myself] how can I incorporate this character into a cake? How can I turn this into something that people want to watch?
Before JK gets started on his next cake, he first looks at what is trending both in the cake world but also in pop culture.
“It’s the only way to think about your YouTube channel in a successful way,” JK explains. He shares how he’s had to adapt, “…instead of being strictly what do I want to talk about, it’s now looking at this (trending subject), find things you want to talk about, and how can that relate to something that you’ve experienced in your life.”
Once the idea is set, JK gets to designing and baking. This stage typically takes 6-7 hours to complete then and an additional 3-4hours to edit the video. Over the years JK has found different systems to streamline his process so he can optimize his time. He explains, “I actually have cakes already baked and they’re in the freezer. And so, I can make a cake, turn on my camera, and just start shooting.”
JK’s whole set up is in one room. He has his kitchen set and computer together so as soon as he finishes making a cake, he gets started on the edit. To make sure he can get something out fast, he gives himself no longer than 45minutes to get the cake portion of his footage cut down. “…if I take any more time than that then I’m going to be stressed out about shooting the parts where I’m talking to the camera.”
I’m making sure that my videos are 3 to 5 minutes instead of the YouTube 10 minutes, just so I can make sure, make it easy for myself to post on all the platforms in a way. It’s a lot of time management now, just making sure that I’m not wasting too much time on something and making myself overwhelmed.
Decorating and designing baked goods for the internet is no cakewalk. JK makes the clear distinction that “I’m not a baker in a bakery. I’m a YouTuber who’s baking…” and with that comes its own set of challenges.
The biggest obstacle is being the only cook in the kitchen. JK reveals how overwhelming it has become not just producing the content by himself but also marketing it to multiple social media platforms. “People don’t understand how many times or how stressful it is to just post on two platforms, and let alone three…not only that, you’re supposed to meet the time limit for each different platform.”
With the ever-growing number of different social media platforms and trying to optimize for each platform’s elusive algorithms, JK’s work gets multiplied with each new video. He admits, “I’m barely starting to read and reply to comments and even messages [on social media] because it was just too much of my time being spent posting the content and then having to create, then film, and edit. I still feel a little overwhelmed doing it. JK shares that he has recently hired additional help for the first time in his YouTube career.
“I just realized that you had to hire more help instead of just drowning in posting on all the platforms. Having someone who can help you with all that makes such a difference.”
This has allowed for JK to do more experimentation to try and see what new ways he can grow his channel. “I started to realize that my content is just becoming really stale… so I’m trying to expand onto other platforms and styles.”
The biggest slice of advice JK wishes he knew was just how difficult maintaining a successful channel was going to be. He confesses he is regularly crying because of how passionate he is about what he does. Elaborating, “It’s going to be really hard to gain an audience and you have to be prepared for that. The drop in views, or even just the slow climb to views, that was one thing I wish somebody told me how difficult it was.” It’s a difficult place to be, but JK also encourages that it’s all part of the process. Continuing, he states, “…I feel like even musicians and all artists feel that way about their content because it is very passionate. You’re creating something that you’re bringing out into the world and then you’re getting no feedback. I really wish somebody told me that early on.”
It’s because of that lack of feedback that JK advises you to become your own advocate.
“My advice is that you really have to be your own cheerleader and believe that you’re the one in a million, because if you don’t then you’re not going to make it. That’s how I feel, because if you don’t believe that you’re going to be the one that makes it, then who else will?”
Even when the content you create is sweet, being a fulltime baking entertainer has its bitter moments. But JK has found that knowing what interests you in your own content, knowing your own limits and getting support can help make the journey less difficult. Ultimately, it’s important to be willing to see your vision to the end. But like the process of baking a physical cake, creating and maintaining a success channel takes time, patience and creativity.